BALTIMORE — Take a ride in the Nancy Amato's "Colonoscopy Cab" and she'll do everything she can to make sure it's not a pain in your behind.
"I pick you up at your house and take you to your test. I'll wait for you in the waiting room and then once you're ready to go, we'll stop and have breakfast or lunch depending on what time of day it is and what you feel like," she said.
The idea came to Amato during one of her chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer nine years ago. She was 48, just two years shy of the recommended age to get tested, when she did the screening before donating a kidney to her sister.
She says her doctor suggested doing the screening just to "check a box" and it wasn't required to donate the kidney. Amato is glad she did it. When she woke up, doctors told her they found a large mass in her colon that they couldn't remove. They scheduled a CAT scan for that afternoon.
"I was shocked because I had no symptoms," she said. "I was really not experiencing any symptoms at all."
Amato went through surgery and chemo and has been cancer free for nine years. Her diagnosis allowed her to talk openly to her friends and family about a topic that isn't often talked about. She encouraged them to get tested, even if they weren't quite 50.
"I think 45 is a good age if you have no other risk factors," Amato said.
Doctor Niraj Jani, the director of Gastroenterology at GBMC, agrees with Amato. He said it is already recommended that African Americans and people at high-risk for colon cancer be tested at 45.
"There's a lot of discussion right now, should we move it for everybody to age 45 and that's because the incidents of, particularly rectal cancer and colon cancer, is on the rise in 40-year-olds," said Jani.
Dr. Jani said people don't usually have symptoms until the cancer is more advanced but there are warning signs.
"The things that we look for particularly are change in bowel habits from the norm, change in weight, blood in the stool, decrease frequency in stool, abdominal pain, decrease appetite."
Amato said she has given about 20 rides over the years and is happy to continue giving more rides. And there is one big upside to riding in the Colonoscopy Cab, aside from the free meal.
"I have a really good track record too. Nobody has come home with difficult news, so knock on wood we hope that that continues."
Amato will be joining other cancer survivors at the Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs event on Saturday September 28. The event benefits the oncology services and patient support programs at GBMC. It's $35/car to get in and starts at 10 a.m.